WORLD / AMERICAS
US weighs 3ft distancing rule
Evidence emerges transmission rates lower in schools
Published: Mar 15, 2021 09:13 PM
Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies at a House subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., the United States, on July 31, 2020.(Photo: Xinhua)

Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies at a House subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., the United States, on July 31, 2020.(Photo: Xinhua)

The US' top pandemic advisor said Sunday that authorities were considering cutting social distancing rules to 3 feet (1 meter), a move that would change a key tenet of the global fight against COVID-19.

Anthony Fauci, a world-respected figure during the coronavirus crisis, said experts at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) were examining a Massachusetts study that found "no substantial difference" in COVID-19 cases in schools observing 6-foot and 3-foot rules.

Asked on CNN's "State of the Union" show whether that meant that a 3-foot separation was sufficient, Fauci replied, "It does, indeed."

"The CDC is very well aware that data are accumulating making it look more like 3 feet are OK under certain circumstances," Fauci added.

While cautioning that the CDC was still weighing the data and conducting its own tests, he said its findings would come "soon."

The six-foot social distancing rule has been a widely-adopted global measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus, along with mask-wearing and hand-washing.

School officials across the world are under pressure to fully reopen as soon as safely possible, but many say the six-foot requirement makes it difficult without adding portable classrooms or shortening the school day.

Many teachers unions have also insisted on 6-foot distancing.

Policies on reopening schools and businesses have varied sharply around the globe as governments try to balance quelling infections with a return to normal life.

The study led by the Beth Deaconess Medical Center in Massachusetts, surveying 251 school districts, found "no substantial difference in the number of cases of COVID-19 among either students or staff" between those observing the 3- and 6-foot rules when all wore masks.

The findings, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, add to a growing body of evidence that COVID-19 transmission rates are low in schools.

A 3-foot rule would have an enormous impact on prospects not only for fully reopening schools, but also for offices and even public areas.

AFP
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